Jason Smith

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Washington Wizards

The Wizards made the bold decision to commit max money to three organization grown players long-term and will permanently have their hands full managing their finances as a result. In order to make the strategy work, they’ll need to be responsible with where they spend the rest of their budget.

While the club already projects to dip into the luxury tax this season and next (with over $29MM in guaranteed money tied up in Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi in 2018/19 alone), they’ll get a chance to practice financial restraint this summer with a handful of free agents that they can afford to part ways with if they feel the need to.

Tim Frazier, PG, 27 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $4.1MM deal in 2016
One season removed from a fantastic stint as a spot starter in New Orleans in 2016/17, Frazier hasn’t had much of an impact since coming over in a draft day trade last June. The Wizards were in need of a reliable backup point guard when they targeted Frazier but seem to have grown comfortable with the idea of Tomas Satoransky handling backup point guard duties in John Wall‘s absence. For that reason, Frazier will probably have to choose between rounding out the club’s rotation as a third-string playmaker or look elsewhere.

Sheldon Mac, SG, 25 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $1.8MM deal in 2016
A torn Achilles has rendered Mac unable to suit up in 2017/18. He’ll hit restricted free agency in the summer but don’t expect any suitors until he can prove that he’s healthy enough to battle for a rotation spot. That’ll likely have to happen in the G League.

Chris McCullough, PF, 23 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3,8MM deal in 2015
The Wizards, to this point, have shown little interested in working McCullough into their rotation. The 23-year-old showed some flashes of promise during his rookie campaign with the Nets in 2015/16 but then again many fringe NBA players have looked half-decent in Brooklyn’s lineup the last few years. If all goes well, McCullough will find another squad to break training camp with next fall. It’s hard to say whether or not there will be much more beyond that.

Jodie Meeks, SG, 30 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $6.7MM deal in 2017
After several years of struggling to stay on the court, Meeks has shown that he can contribute modestly off the bench. While his player option for 2018/19 comes in at a rather cheap $3.5MM for a player with his experience, don’t be surprised if the veteran elects to return. There may be a team out there willing to give the career .417 three-point shooter more than that on the open market but an argument can be made that Meeks could benefit more in the long run from simply focusing on staying healthy and relevant where he is, while worrying about free agency in 2019.

Mike Scott, PF, 29 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.7MM deal in 2017
The Wizards got a key rotation piece for dirt cheap over the summer and the forward has done nothing but raise his stock over the course of the season. Expect teams to take an interest in the veteran role player with impressive efficiency numbers and the ability to put points on the board. Washington would likely be happy to retain him but will be limited in what they can offer him.

Jason Smith, C, 32 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $15.7MM deal in 2016
Smith hit free agency at the perfect time back in 2016. This summer, in contrast, teams won’t be so willing to cough up significant money for career reserves with forgettable portfolios. Smith’s stints with the Magic, Knicks and Pelicans hardly justified the contract he signed two summers ago but he’s done even less since arriving in Washington. For that reason, expect him to accept his $5.5MM player option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards Notes: Expectations, McCullough, Robinson

The moves made this offseason by the Celtics and Cavaliers – including a blockbuster trade with one another – has allowed those two clubs to dominate the conversation on Eastern Conference contenders as the 2017/18 season approaches. However, the Wizards feel as if they’re right there with the top two clubs in the East. In fact, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes, Bradley Beal and the Wizards think they’re the best team in the East, and believe they match up particularly well vs. the Cavs.

“We love the matchup against them and why not?” Beal said. “I said it and J.R. [Smith] didn’t like it too much, some of their other guys didn’t like it too much. But I felt that way. It’s not disrespect with them, I’m not saying we’d have won the series (if the Wizards, instead of the Celtics, had made the Eastern Conference Finals), but I feel like our competition level and matchups would’ve been better.”

As the Wizards head into a new season with increased expectations, let’s round up a few more notes out of D.C.

  • Third-year forward Chris McCullough, acquired from the Nets last season, is battling for minutes in the Wizards’ rotation, and head coach Scott Brooks has been impressed, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details. “He’s a better shooter than I thought,” Brooks said of McCullough. “He hasn’t played much the last few years, but he’s having a good camp. I think that’s through the hard work that he’s put in. He came into camp in great shape. He’s showing us that he can play in the league. I don’t know where I can find him the minutes, but at least I know he can definitely play.”
  • With Markieff Morris at risk of being convicted on assault charges, which would result in an NBA suspension, the Wizards have been keeping a close eye on their power forwards during their first week back, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Veteran center Jason Smith is among the players seeing extra time at the four, per Buckner.
  • Wizards rookie Devin Robinson, who is on a two-way contract with the team, was in a walking boot at training camp last week, and Brooks suggests that Robinson will be out “for a while” due to a foot injury, tweets Buckner. The G League season doesn’t tip off until November 3, so Robinson has a little extra time to get healthy.
  • As we noted yesterday, the Wizards are one of four NBA teams without a G League affiliate for this season, which will have an impact on Robinson, Michael Young, and anyone else Washington wants to assign to the G League.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Jordan

The Hornets struggled to keep leads when their starters – particularly Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller – were on the bench last season. The question ahead of 2017/18 then, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer asks, is whether or not that will change this season.

Gone are all of Walker’s and Zeller’s backups, a veritable laundry list of players from Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts and Briante Weber to Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert and Miles Plumlee. In their place are Michael Carter-Williams and Dwight Howard, both of whom were attained by the Hornets at relative bargains over the summer.

Of course the addition of Carter-Williams will provide size and defense to the Hornets’ second unit but the real draw is Howard, not because of what he’ll add off the bench but because of what his addition to the starting lineup entails.

As we’ve already written, head coach Steve Clifford has already committed to starting Howard when the season begins, that means Zeller himself will be able to work directly with the Hornets’ second unit to help do for them what he did for the starting five in 2016/17.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards will have a number of players to replace Markieff Morris with when the season tips off. The forward is currently expected to miss six to eight weeks with a sports hernia. “We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly Oubre]in there. We can throw Jason Smith in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There’s a lot of players that we can throw into the mix,” head coach Scott Brooks told Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
  • Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan will soon have a stake in another professional sports franchise. Jordan is part of Derek Jeter‘s group that has been approved to buy the Miami Marlins, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.
  • Only time will tell how Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and new general manager Travis Schlenk mesh over the next few years but the dynamic between the two could be worth watching as the organization’s priorities shift from winning ball games to developing for the future. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Budenholzer will embrace the rebuild, whether that’s his preference or not.

Wizards Notes: Horford, Mahinmi, Smith, BIG3

Boston’s Al Horford could have been in the visiting locker room as the Eastern Conference semifinals get under way this afternoon, writes J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic. Before signing a four-year, $113MM deal with the Celtics last summer, Horford narrowed his list to three finalists that also included the Wizards and Rockets. Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard flew to Atlanta to make a personalized pitch to Horford. Point guard John Wall also joined in the recruiting process.

“Me and him had a great conversation,” Wall recalled. “He told me it was down to [us], them and I think Houston. He made his final decision after that, you’ve got to move on. It would’ve been great to have him on our team, but he’s with the Celtics. They had a great season this year. He had a heck of a season and we’re competing against him now so all that texting, all we had is out the window.” 

There’s more today out of Washington:

  • The Wizards have announced that back-up center Ian Mahinmi won’t be available for today’s game (Twitter link). That isn’t suprising, Michael tweets, because Mahinmi hasn’t gone through a full practice since straining his left calf two weeks ago. He has ramped up his individual workouts over the past week, but isn’t ready for game action. Mahinmi played just 31 regular season games after signing a four-year, $64MM deal last offseason, as knee problems limited him to just five games before the All-Star break.
  • There’s better news about reserve big man Jason Smith, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Coach Scott Brooks said Smith will be ready for today’s game. He has been dealing with a left calf strain, but played 11 minutes in Friday’s closeout game against the Hawks.
  • Four former Wizards players are hoping to be part of the BIG3 league this summer, relays CSNMidAtlantic. Etan Thomas tweeted Saturday that he was at the league’s draft combine along with DeShawn Stevenson, Kwame Brown and Michael Ruffin. The new league, which features three-on-three competition among former NBA players, will hold its draft today in Las Vegas.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Wizards, Henson, McRoberts

Pistons center Boban Marjanovic and rookie power forward Henry Ellenson will get a long look during the last four games of the season, Aaron McMann of MLive.com reports. Marjanovic, who signed a three-year, $21MM contract as a free agent last summer, has played sparingly behind Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes. Marjanovic could have a bigger role next season if Baynes opts out of the final year of his contract. Ellenson, the team’s first-round selection last June, has spent most of the season with the team’s D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich.  “We will still play our main guys, but we’ll get Henry and Boban in there every night,” coach Stan Van Gundy told the team’s beat reporters.

In other developments around the Eastern Conference:

  • Power forward Jason Smith has proven to be a bargain pickup for the Wizards, according to J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com. Smith, who played for the Magic last season, signed a three-year, $15MM deal as a free agent last summer. He’s averaging 5.6 PPG but is shooting 49.2% from 3-point range and 53.1% overall despite getting dropped from the rotation on occasion, Michael continues. His screening has also been a valuable asset, Michael adds.
  • Bucks big man John Henson will lose $250K in bonus incentives because of his current thumb injury, Bobby Marks of The Vertical tweets.  Henson needed to play in 60 games to collect the bonus. Henson signed a four-year extension in October 2015 that kicked in at the start of this season. The contract is worth between $44MM and $48MM, depending upon if Henson reaches certain incentives.
  • Heat forward Josh McRoberts participated in his first contact practice on Tuesday since he was sidelined in late December with a stress fracture in his left foot, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Coach Erik Spoelstra is still uncertain if McRoberts will return this season, Jackson adds. McRoberts holds a $6MM option on his contract for next season.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Mahinmi, Smith

Pat Riley has to do more than just appease paying customers, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, the team president needs to steward the future of the Heat franchise. That means, despite the 13-game win streak that has suddenly put Miami within striking distance of the playoffs, the club would be wise to approach the February 23 trade deadline with caution.

This summer will be a pivotal one for the Heat, Winderman writes, citing things like Chris Bosh‘s contract situation and the fact that the club has already traded two of the club’s next four first-rounders as reasons why they ought to be smart about how they structure the team heading forward. The draft matters now more than ever, he adds, suggesting that hasty moves to load up on short-term assets this week would only hurt their 2017 draft position.

Winderman notes that the camaraderie in the Heat locker room is similar to that of the upstart 2004/05 Heat team anchored by a rookie Dwyane Wade, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler. That team started slow but rallied to become a playoff team. Tellingly, it wasn’t long after the turnaround when Riley opted to cash in his chips in the blockbuster deal that netted Shaquille O’Neal.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • It wasn’t long ago when Heat forwards Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson appeared to be reasonably untouchable, writes Ira Winderman in a separate piece for the Sun Sentinel, but Miami’s recent improvement may have altered that. Now that the club isn’t in position to land a Top 3 pick, Winderman says, the club might consider holding onto Goran Dragic more than anybody else.
  • After missing 50 games for the Wizards through the first four months of the season, Ian Mahinmi isn’t about to take time off during the All-Star Break, writes Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic. The big man inked to a four-year, $64MM deal over the summer has been on a minutes restriction and will look to get himself back into a rhythm in the second half.
  • The return of Ian Mahimi has eaten into backup center Jason Smith‘s minutes but the consummate professional made an impression while filling in for the injured big man. “What he’s done the last two or three months is what he’s done his entire career and he’s been terrific,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks tells Candace Buckner of the Washington Post. Smith has averaged close to 14 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes so far this season.
  • The Hornets complicated their cap situation when they acquired Miles Plumlee earlier this month but retain some expiring contracts that could be dealt ahead of the deadline. General manager Rich Cho, Bobby Marks of The Vertical explains, has made four trade deadline deals since his first year with the squad back in 2011.

Southeast Notes: Battier, Beal, Ibaka, Ross, Mahinmi

Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel wondered if Shane Battier, recently hired as the Heat‘s Director of Basketball Development and Analytics, will eventually assume leadership of the franchise from Pat Riley. For the interim, Winderman writes, Battier’s position will be the “first step” toward a post-Riley front office. Battier will work alongside Andy Elisburg and Nick Arison, executives with an advanced “business-of-basketball” acumen. While there is no reason to believe Riley is ready to step away from the game, Winderman could see Riley moving into a role similar to Jerry West’s with the Lakers; an executive board member who isn’t accountable for mundane, day-to-day front office operations.

More from around the Southeast…

  • Jared Dudley of the Suns stuck up for his former teammate, claiming Bradley Beal was snubbed of an All-Star roster spot. “The @NBA tells us players that winning matters! Wizards are the hottest team in the NBA! Bradley Beal is healthy and balling!”, Dudley tweeted on Thursday. (Twitter link) Keely Diven of CSN Mid-Atlantic argued that Carmelo Anthony received the All-Star nod due to his ability to attract media attention. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today gave further insight to ‘Melo’s selection, noting that Anthony received more votes from coaches than Beal.
  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders described it as “a little obvious” that Serge Ibaka did not bond with his teammates in Orlando. Ibaka, who was dealt to Toronto on February 14, didn’t mesh with the playing styles of Orlando’s younger players (Twitter link). By Kyler’s account, it seems that Ibaka’s teammates “had real issues” with the 27-year-old, and welcomed a change.
  • Terrence Ross told Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders that he embraced the “fresh start” in Orlando. “I was kind of aware that something could have been happening before the deadline so it wasn’t too shocking,” Ross said. “At the same time, being drafted to a team and playing for one team, it’s a little different, but I’m enjoying the process. It’s a good opportunity. It’s a new fresh start for me and I’m looking forward to it. I just kind of hope we can bring some of that experience I got in Toronto and bring it here, and really just helping wherever I can.” Ross, who has averaged 10.4 points through 54 games in 2016/17, is in the first season of a three-year, $31.5MM contract.
  • Jason Smith will likely see a dip in minutes as the Wizards ease Ian Mahinmi into the lineup, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Smith, who has averaged 7.8 points with 4.8 rebounds over his last six games, has been a serviceable back-up to starter Marcin Gortat“What he’s [Smith] done the last two or three months is what he’s done his entire career and he’s been terrific,” said Coach Scott Brooks. “But if you have a good team, everybody’s going to have to sacrifice. It’s not just Jason, starters are going to have to sacrifice.”

Southeast Notes: Beal, Wall, Bazemore, Augustin

Bradley Beal called out his Wizards teammates for a lack of defensive effort after Saturday’s loss in Orlando, relays Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. The fifth-year shooting guard, who signed a five-year extension over the summer worth nearly $128MM, hinted that lineup changes could be coming soon if things don’t change. “The biggest thing we can control is our defense and that’s all about effort and wanting to play,” Beal said. “I think coach [Scott Brooks] is pretty fed up with the way we’re playing and I think he’s going to start playing guys who want to play and guys who want to show up.” The Magic were able to make up a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter when reserves Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre and Jason Smith were on the court together, so those are probably the players Beal is talking about.

There’s more this morning from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards are being careful with point guard John Wall after two offseason knee surgeries, which will put a greater burden on Beal, writes J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic. Wall sat out Saturday’s game, which was the second night of a back-to-back, a situation where Wall will likely be held out as a precaution, at least for a while. Washington has three more back-to-backs on the schedule in November and two in December. “Trey and Tomas [Satoransky] got to step up as well and lead us as point guards,” Beal said. “I just got to be aggressive, play my game. Not take over and feel like I’ve got to do everything. I can’t do it by myself.”
  • Hawks guard Kent Bazemore is off to a rocky start after signing a four-year, $70MM contract this summer, notes Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution. He shot just 28% from the floor during the team’s first five games and is trying to find other ways to contribute until his scoring touch returns. “That’s one of the main reasons they brought me back, my tenacity and my love and passion for the game,” Bazemore said. “At times I’ve gotten a little down on myself. I’m human. It’s good that I can finally recognize that there is a time and place for everything and the middle of a game is not the time to get down on yourself.”
  • D.J. Augustin‘s scoring has been a pleasant early-season surprise for the Magic, writes John Denton of NBA.com. The veteran point guard, who signed a four-year deal with Orlando this summer, is averaging 7.8 points per game off the bench in limited minutes. “He’s really grown,” said Orlando coach Frank Vogel. “I had him a couple of years ago [in Indiana] and he’s improved as a player. He’s not just a catch-and-shoot guy. He’s making good basketball plays with the pass and his creativity with creating his own shot as well has improved. So he’s given us a big lift.’’

Wizards To Sign Jason Smith

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards and unrestricted free agent Jason Smith have agreed to a deal, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports (via Twitter). It will be a three-year, $16MM pact, J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com tweets. Smith has a player option for the final season, Michael adds.

The 30-year-old big man spent the 2015/16 campaign with the Magic, appearing in 76 games and averaging 7.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 15.5 minutes per outing. Smith’s shooting line on the year was .485/.250/.806.

In Smith, Washington adds a big man capable of stretching the floor with his shooting when he’s on, though the former No. 20 overall pick (2007, Miami) only owns a career mark of .293 from beyond the arc. His most successful campaign from deep was the 2014/15 season when he nailed 35.7% of his threes for the Knicks. But Smith is certainly a solid addition as a role-player, with Smith set to compete against Andrew Nicholson and Drew Gooden for minutes off the bench next season.

Free Agency Rumors: Knicks, Bazemore, Rivers

New Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek views shooting guard and center as two spots the team needs to address in free agency, but suggested today that center may be the top priority of the two, as Ian Begley of ESPN.com outlines.

One possible free agent target at shooting guard for the Knicks is Kent Bazemore — New York has “heavy interest” in the Atlanta wing, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. However, Berman cautions that the Knicks may not have the resources to aggressively pursue Bazemore, since he figures to be seeking $16MM+ per year, and New York will have to address multiple positions in free agency. Per Berman’s source, Bazemore isn’t ruling out suitors like the Knicks and Pelicans, but his preference is to re-sign with the Hawks, if possible.

Let’s check in on a few other free agent updates from around the NBA…

  • Austin Rivers intends to speak to the Clippers and a few other teams when free agency opens late on Thursday night, says Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). According to Turner, Rivers may be seeking an annual salary in the neighborhood of $8MM on his next deal.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer confirms that the Sixers have interest in Dion Waiters, as a Tuesday report suggested, but the team also has some potential concerns about bringing the Philadelphia native home, as Pompey details.
  • As we heard late last night, the Celtics are one of the teams to schedule a meeting with Dwight Howard early in the free agent recruiting period. However, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link) hears that Boston isn’t expected to aggressively pursue Howard — the team is doing its homework, and could make an effort to land the veteran center if the price is right.
  • Jason Smith will be among the free agent big men to receive interest from the Timberwolves this offseason, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, who tweets that Smith will be more of a “fallback-type” option for Minnesota.